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While virtual meetings have their place, they also have many benefits and drawbacks 

With the onset of the pandemic came our leap into the virtual world. Our social gatherings, meetings and events found themselves on Zoom instead of in-person.  

Whilst the benefits of an easy zoom meeting are evident — such as saving time, being integrated into our virtual calendars and being accessible from anywhere — they also come with their caveats.  

The technology used for such activities requires some form of learning and training. Moreover, it is easy to get distracted due to technical difficulties and attempting to multi-task as opposed to focusing on the actual topic at hand. Most importantly, our human communication through body language and other more implicit forms is difficult to read through a screen.  

Whilst virtual meetings will continue to have their time in place, it will be important to slowly integrate real connections back into our lives for the greater benefit of everyone involved.  

Given the prolonged nature of the pandemic, virtual work was necessary to maintain the operations of schools, alongside many workplaces. Zoom and other related platforms like Microsoft Teams and Skype, appeared to be a logical solution. 

The Zoom app is free to use within limitations, can be accessed anywhere at any time and is generally scalable to most sizes of firms. A considerable benefit is also that of saving time.  

Instead of scheduling, booking a room and sending out agendas, a simple link is all that’s needed with minimal need for set up before and after. Some students have mentioned that the flexibility in their schedules due to more efficient meetings is one reason to prefer online platforms over in-person communication.  

However, there are also significant issues with interacting with virtual faces instead of real ones. For one, technology does not come easy to many and the training and learning curve required may make online meetings more difficult and time-consuming than preparing for a real one. This is even further pronounced for those who lack consistent access to a virtual platform, making virtual events more of a burden than an easier option.  

Furthermore, more than 67 per cent of workers have mentioned that they are more distracted and tend to multi-task during online meetings.  

It is much easier to have multiple tabs and tasks open behind a screen as opposed to on your phone — sneakily hidden under your desk — at a real meeting. Especially given the extracurriculars and school commitments students handle, it is all too tempting to remain disengaged with the meeting in front of you in order to be able to check more off one’s to-do list.  

Yet, the biggest caveat with online platforms is certainly the lack of real human connection.  

The foundation of our communication is through facial expressions and overall body language. The fact is that this cannot be perfectly portrayed through pixels on a screen — especially given the volatile nature of internet connections.  

Because of this, virtual meetings lead us to have less trust, engagement and empathy with the person we are speaking with.  

Although we can try our best to portray our true selves, our virtual smiles and laughs will never fill and brighten a room the way our real ones do.  

It is important to note that the virtual world does have its time and place. It can be a great tool for connecting with those far from us and fitting tasks into tight schedules. However, human beings were made to converse not just through words, but also through the nuanced signals of our bodies as well — a phenomenon that cannot be transferred through a screen.  

Thus, it is important to consider the benefits of being together when planning events. This will bring us back to uniting our real selves — away from our lives in front of the screen — as much as possible.  

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